A NASCAR driver who was suspended on Sunday for using a racial slur is explaining that he “didn’t think twice” about using the word because it “didn’t seem like a big deal.”
NASCAR on Wednesday announced that driver Jeremy Clements had been suspended indefinitely for an “intolerable and insensitive remark” made while speaking to an MTV reporter after Sunday’s Daytona 500.
“NASCAR has a Code of Conduct that’s explicitly spelled out in the 2013 NASCAR Rule Book,” NASCAR Vice President Steve O’Donnell said in a statement. “We fully expect our entire industry to adhere to that Code.”
Clements promised to “do what I need to do in order to atone for my error in judgment,” but both NASCAR and the driver refused to elaborate the specific word used.
In an interview with ESPN on Thursday, Clements struggled to explain why he had use a slur when speaking to the MTV reporter after the race.
“We were just talking. So I said one remark about how I wouldn’t…” Clements said, stopping short. “I can’t say that part.”
“That’s pretty much how it happened,” he recalled. “And even after I said what I said, they still kept asking me questions. It didn’t seem like it was a big deal at all. I didn’t even think twice about it, like, after. I know I shouldn’t have said it. Even when I did say it, I shouldn’t have said it. But I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal.”
When ESPN asked him to clarify exactly what was said, he again refused.
“Was it racial or not? Maybe not in context, but in term?” the interviewer pressed.
“Correct,” Clements replied. “When you say ‘racial’ remark, it wasn’t used to describe anybody or anything… So that’s all I’m going to say to that. And it really wasn’t. I was describing racing, and the word I used was incorrect and I shouldn’t have said it. It shouldn’t be used at all.”
The driver argued that the remark, which was not recorded, only came to light because “I was an honest person” after noticing that several NASCAR officials had called his phone while he was attending a church service on Sunday night.
“I had two more messages and I was like, golly, something’s just not right,” Clements said. “So I called back, and the guy asked me point-blank: ‘Hey, did you say this word?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I did.’ I was being honest. I did. I messed up. It was just one word and it wasn’t about anybody. It wasn’t even used as that.”
Jalopnik’s Patrick George pointed out that it could be useful for NASCAR to release the exact wording of Clement’s comments to make the standards clear to other drivers.
“If we — and the drivers — don’t know what it is that got Clements into hot water, how will we know what the sport’s standards are?” George wondered. “How can drivers avoid breaking the rules if they don’t know how the rules were broken?”
“At any rate, probably the best thing for NASCAR to do at this point is to shed light on what Clements said, not to bury it. It’s the only way to show the world that they mean business about eliminating the weird racial stigma that has plagued it for too long,” he added. “If they are serious about doing that, they need to tell the world what was said and show us all what’s acceptable and what’s not.”
Clements is expected to miss at least two races due to the suspension.
[Photo: Flickr/Royal Broil]